This is a hard review for me to write because it's quite clear that Zack Stortini is one of the very best people on any hockey team. Even after being ignominiously demoted by the Oilers despite being a much better player than a couple of the wingers the Oilers' decided to keep, Stortini went out of his way to be "good in the community" - his performance in the Oklahoma City blizzard post-game really stands out - which you'd think would mean as much as being "good in the room". Unfortunately for Zack Stortini, it wasn't enough for him to keep a job on the worst club in the league.
The odd thing is that Zack Stortini long-term track record was much better than that of a guy like J.F. Jacques or Steve MacIntyre. Bruce showed quite definitively that he's not a bad player when compared to other end-of-the-roster schlock - when it comes to scoring chances, he managed to be better than three of the fifteen regular forwards, and that was one of his less flattering statistics. That's not to say that he's any great shakes because he really isn't very good, but it is to say that he compares well if we limit the analysis to forwards 10-14 on NHL rosters.
So why was he demoted? The story from the club was that footspeed was the big issue, and while I buy that for the reason he got scratched for the first game of the year (with MacIntyre taking his spot), I don't buy it as the reason he got demoted. I don't think it was a coincidence that Stortini's demotion came right after an "embarrassing" fight with Dallas Stars' forward Krys Barch. Robin Brownlee wondered aloud whether that was, essentially, the last straw for head coach Tom Renney, and I tend to think that it was. And while I don't have a problem with what he did (protect himself in a fight after a long shift), a guy who's been labeled as a "fighter" is going to have a hard time getting people to look past his shortcomings with the gloves off. I've said this before, but one of the big things that Zack Stortini can do to help his career is market himself as something other than a fighter.
Immediately after Stortini was waived this is what I had to say:
Bruce is shocked [that he wasn't claimed], but this shouldn't come as much of a surprise. According to Ryan Aber, Stortini will be in the lineup tomorrow for the Barons, but Stortini's demotion gives OKC one more veteran than they'll be allowed to ice, so someone who's been playing regularly is going to have to sit. That situation should be interesting to follow as time goes on; it's possible that Stortini ends up having a hard time getting into the Barons' lineup on a nightly basis.
I don't think it ended up being a result of the veteran rule, but Stortini did in fact end up spending a couple nights as a healthy scratch in the AHL, which I think says something about his future as a player. Todd Nelson had no incentive to do anything but play his best guys in the playoffs, and Stortini didn't make the cut every time out.
Projection: The Oilers elect not to give Stortini a qualifying offer, and he ends up signing a two-way deal with another NHL team that leaves him playing in the minors for all of 2011-12.